IT’S often said there should be no secrets in a marriage, but Patricia Bass had to keep a pretty big one from husband Trevor.
The 90-year-old worked as a code breaker at the celebrated Bletchley Park in Milton Keynes during the Second World War.
And, having signed the Official Secrets Act, she could not reveal her real role to even her loved one.
As they celebrate 66 years of marriage at Yarnton Residential Home today he said: “I had no idea right until I saw it in the paper in the 1970s. Her parents never knew what she did in the war. It was the way it was. I just accepted it, that is how it had to be.”
Middlesex-born Patricia Gregg won a place at the top secret facility thanks to her French language skills and work as a secretary.
She was part of the team that cracked the German Enigma code to pass on vital Nazi intelligence.
Mrs Bass was part of a team which used an electro-mechanical device nicknamed “The Bombe” made by mathematicians Alan Turing and Gordon Welchman.
It ran through all the possible configurations of the Nazis’ wartime cypher machine called Enigma, which sent out codes around the world to its spies and forces. The codebreakers, including Mrs Bass, used a machine called ‘the bombe’ – an upgraded version of the German’s Enigma machine with added wheels and levers to cut the number of possible Nazi code settings down to those that could be tested by hand.
Pat in uniform and her message of thanks from former Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Outside her room at the home is a July 2009 letter from then Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
It reads: “The Government wishes to express to you its deepest gratitude for the vital service you performed during World War II.”
Yorkshire-born Mr Bass said: “She was interested in crosswords and her French was quite reasonable, that was the criteria. I knew she was very intelligent.”
They met in 1942. Mr Bass was an engineer maintaining planes, including Spitfires.
He was posted to Evanton in Scotland, an airfield near Easter Ross in the Highlands in 1944. By coincidence she was posted there after the war and Mr Bass said of the moment he saw her: “We were walking across an airfield and that was it. She probably told me to clear off at the time. She had a friend with her and we had a chat then I followed her down here and we got married.”
They moved to and married in Teddington, Middlesex and had two daughters, Jackie and Moira, three grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
Mrs Bass moved to Yarnton Residential and Nursing Home in 2012 to be near Jackie. Mr Bass moved into the home on Monday with his wife, who has dementia, but still enjoys crosswords.
Mr Bass, also 90 – who managed car dealerships in Harrow – said “tolerance” is the key to a long union. He added: “We are two adult people and we just accept whatever it is, we never had an argument.”
Jackie, of Stoutsfield Close, Yarnton, 57, will join her parents for a celebration today.
She said: “The amazing thing is the secrecy. How you ever kept something like that secret for years, it doesn’t bear thinking about.”
- THE Nazis used an Enigma machine to encipher and decipher secret messages they were able to send.
The code was changed once a day, meaning there were 159 million million million possible settings.
British decoding operations were based in wooden huts at the Government Code and Cypher School in Bletchley Park. The team used the British upgraded version of the Enigma machine called ‘the bombe’ and worked under Dilly Knox with mathematicians John Jeffreys, Peter Twinn and Alan Turing to break the code.
These codes included a key used by the Luftwaffe liaison officers co-ordinating air support for army units. As intelligence reports based on the decoded information were sent to Whitehall, MI6 spread false information that their data had come from spying.
Successes included helping allies find U-Boat “wolf packs” to limit their ability to sink supply ships and disrupting supply lines in North Africa.
In 1944, the breaking of German ciphers helped the allies confuse Hitler over where Allies would land, reducing resistance at Normandy.